FDA Tries to Pay Qorvis $300K Under the Table

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was "pummeled by Congress for poor inspections of tainted vegetables, drugs and other products," the agency wanted public relations help. First, it hired Mildred Cooper as "a temporary FDA consultant ... on a two-year contract to advise FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach and other officials." Cooper, who previously did public affairs work for the Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency, then contacted a friend at the PR firm Qorvis Communications. The friend directed her to Qorvis crisis communications director Don Goldberg. Goldberg worked with Cooper to steer an additional FDA contract to Qorvis. But, as Goldberg explained, "It was not appropriate [for the FDA] to hire Qorvis directly." Instead, the PR proposal came from Alaska Newspapers Inc. (ANI), "a firm owned by an Alaska Native corporation that does not have to compete for federal work." Emails between the FDA's Cooper and Qorvis' Goldberg show that ANI agreed beforehand to give the $300,000 no-bid contract to Qorvis. Qorvis also works for the drug industry group PhRMA. The FDA contract, which was supposed to "create and foster a lasting positive image of the agency for the American public," has since been suspended. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce may investigate the contract, according to chair John Dingell.